If you’re looking for social filter activities for kids, as well as practical tips to help you learn how to teach social skills to children of all ages and abilities, this post is for you! We’re sharing 7 strategies to help you teach your child how to filter their thoughts and think twice before verbalizing them. We’re also sharing 8 fun and easy social filter activities to reinforce these strategies, which can be used in the classroom, in group therapy sessions, and even at home. These activities double as great team-building exercises, and will do wonders for helping children develop their conversations skills while developing and maintaining friendships.
What Does Social Filter Mean?
The term ‘social filter’ refers to our ability to assess which of our thoughts we should verbalize and which ones we should keep to ourselves based on the situation we’re in and the audience we’re speaking with. It involves thinking before speaking to ensure we aren’t saying something inappropriate or hurtful to ourselves and others.
7 Tips to Teach Kids How to Use Their Social Filter
Small children are notorious for repeating inappropriate things at the most inopportune times, which can be both funny and mortifying for parents and caregivers. Filtering our thoughts and exercising empathy before we speak is a learned skill, and can be particularly tricky for individuals with developmental delays like autism and ADHD. This can lead to problems in school and difficulty making and maintaining friendships, so it’s important to teach and reinforce these skills from a young age. If you’re looking for tips to teach kids how to use their social filter, here are 7 ideas to get you started.
1. Be a good role model
One of the foundations of teaching appropriate social skills to children is to be a good role model – to explain what you’re doing and why. This can be uncomfortable for parents and caregivers who are introverted, but when you model consistent and positive social behavior for your child, it will be easier for him or her to mimic these behaviors over time.
If you’re trying to teach your child how to use their social filter, take the time to explain to your little one how you do this yourself. When someone asks you a question or you’re trying to start a conversation in a group setting, verbalize the various thoughts that are running through your mind, and how you decide what you should and shouldn’t say. You won’t always be able to do this in the moment, especially when you’re filtering out thoughts that may be hurtful or inappropriate, but can discuss in detail after the fact.
2. Remind your child to think before speaking
Get your child into the habit of pausing and asking him- or herself if the things he or she is about to say will 1) be hurtful to themselves, and 2) be hurtful to someone else.
3. Role play
Another great way to teach social skills to kids is to role play. You can come up with fictional situations to act out together, or you can re-enact scenes that already happened and discuss more appropriate ways to handle such interactions in the future. Remember to practice often and to be consistent to ensure the principals and ideas you are trying to teach your child resonate with him or her.
4. Use social stories and scripts
Social stories are written descriptions of everyday situations and events told from a child’s perspective. They are aimed at providing children with something to rehearse so they feel prepared once the situation described actually takes place, and can be an excellent strategy for teaching social skills to kids with developmental challenges like autism.
Social scripts are a little more generic in that they provide kids with a pre-defined list of things to say in certain situations, and while they are certainly useful in teaching kids how to use their social filter, they should be used with caution as specific responses won’t work in every situation and can make kids sound too scripted.
5. Develop a list of social rules
If your child is really struggling to filter his or her thoughts, consider developing a list of ‘Social Rules’ for your child to abide by based on the things he or she struggles with (remembering to stay on topic, refraining from saying things that may be hurtful, etc.). Write them down on a white board and keep them somewhere visible so your child can refer to the list often. If your child struggles to maintain the rules you’ve set forth, consider turning this into a reward system whereby your child earns a small treat for following a certain number of the rules you’ve set forth for him or her each day.
6. Use positive over negative reinforcement
Reinforcement is a fabulous technique parents and teachers can use to encourage appropriate behaviors in children, and research tends to suggest that positive reinforcement – the act of rewarding a child when he or she completes a desired behavior as a means of increasing the likelihood he or she will repeat the behavior again – is the most effective. Sticker charts are a simple, yet effective form of positive reinforcement that can be extremely motivating for kids, and this post contains a list of all kinds of fabulous reward charts you can use to positively reinforce your child’s behaviors.
7. Read books
There are heaps of great books filled with social learning tips and social skills activities for kids, and Julia Cook has a great one geared specifically towards teaching kids how to use their social filter. The book is called I Can’t Believe You Said That!, and it comes with a great activity guide for parents and teachers. Being Frank by Donna W. Earnhardt is another good one – I highly recommend it!
8 Social Filter Activities for Kids
Teachers Pay Teachers is an excellent resource for lesson plans and activities geared towards teaching specific skills to children, and if you’re looking for social filter activities for kids, they have TONS of great ideas you can purchase for a small fee. Here are 8 of my favorites!
Think It or Say It Social Filter Activity
This is one of my favorite social filter activities for kids as it’s a fun way to help children practice identifying thoughts they should filter, and which ones are appropriate to say out loud to others. You can use this in the classroom, in social groups, and as part of therapy sessions.
“I Can’t Believe You Said That” Social Filter Activity for Kids
If you’re looking for social filter activities for kids you can use with the books I Can’t Believe You Said That! by Julia Cook and Being Frank by Donna W. Earnhardt, this is a great one to consider. It’s a set of sorting activity cards with 16 different situations and thoughts, and kids are challenged to sort them into 3 groups: ‘keep it in your head’, ‘say it out loud’, and, ‘filter it’.
Social Skills and Stories Social Filter
Designed for kids in kindergarten through grade 6, this pack includes a social story along with discussion questions you can use at home with your child, or in a classroom setting. It also includes a ‘what should you say?’ sorting activity and social filter posters, including a great ‘THINK before you speak’ poster to reinforce the lessons these activities are meant to teach.
Should I Say That Out Loud? Social Filter Interactive PowerPoint
Perfect for children who like to work on computers, this interactive activity does a great job of explaining why we should keep certain thoughts to ourselves, helps develop empathy, and helps kids learn how to reframe their thoughts to make them more appropriate to express out loud.
Think It or Say It Social Filter Activity
If you’re looking for social filter activities for kids you can use in the classroom or at home, this one is easy to setup and super fun for kids of all ages!
Social Filter Skills to Reduce Rude Comments Complete Program
If you have children or students who are prone to making rude comments without even realizing it, this is another one of my favorite social activities for kids, and it’s suitable for children in both middle and high school. With 30 ‘rude comment cards’, this is a great way to discuss the importance of reading facial expressions and gives kids ideas for making more appropriate comments.
‘Did He Really Just Say That?’ Social Filter Activity
This activity is best suited for kids at the elementary school level who have a tendency to say inappropriate things due to ADHD, autism, and other developmental challenges. It’s a great (and fun) activity to teach kids which thoughts should be kept to themselves.
Speech Therapy Social Filter for Students with Autism
If you’re specifically looking for social filter activities for kids with autism that you can use in therapy, this is a fabulous one to consider! It’s geared towards children in grades 1 through 5, and helps teach them how to filter out bad/mean thoughts from nice ones, and to remember to verbalize only the nice ones.
I hope you found these tips and social filter activities for kids helpful! Remember to be a good role model, to practice through role playing, to use positive over negative reinforcement, and to keep things fun!